University of Houston launches new AI lab geared toward oilfield tech

UH's Sugar Land campus has a new innovation hub focused on machine learning in the energy industry. Photo via UH.edu

The University of Houston at Sugar Land is now home to an innovative lab that will work to find new ways to use artificial intelligence in the oilfield.

Dubbed the Artificial Intelligence Industry Incubator and Digital Oilfield Lab at the University of Houston, the facility will allow faculty, students, and energy professionals to develop technologies and solutions to increase efficiency and boost oil field safety through machine learning, according to a release from UH.

The lab opened in late 2020 and is part of the College of Technology's Advanced Technology and Innovation Laboratory. It represents a partnership with the UH College of Technology and the AI Innovation Consortium based in Louisville, Kentucky.

The consortium also includes Pennsylvania State University, the University of Louisville, Louisiana State University, and a number of corporations.

According to the release from UH, several companies have already agreed to work with the lab on projects that will find ways to use AI for predictive analytics, visual inspection, and health and safety measures.

"This incubator program emphasizes the need to build projects grounded in clear business value, with technologically rich and hands-on initiatives, and an engaging industry/academia partnership," Konrad Konarski, chair and director of operations at AIIC, says in a statement. "This allows us to focus on the most relevant AI technologies that have immediate impact and value to the oil and gas industry."

Too, the lab aims to provide students with valuable experiences that they can likely leverage into a job upon graduation.

"The laboratory and incubator will allow our students to contribute to the various applied research and proof of concept work currently underway and in the future," David Crawley, professor of practice in the College of Technology, says in a statement. "This includes working with the AIIC's commercial partners to create opportunities to move their incubator experience and advanced academic background into jobs at participating operations."

The university has also made headway in recent months using machine learning to better the search for "super hard" materials, such as diamonds. It also launched a new drug discovery institute in November.

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Building Houston

 
 

Here's what companies are in the latest cohort for gBETA. Photo courtesy of gBETA

An early-stage accelerator has picked its latest cohort of five Houston companies.

The Fall 2020 cohort of gBETA Houston includes:

  • AllIDoIsCook is founded by Tobi Smith and focused on exposing the world to Africa's cuisine by manufacturing gourmet food products delivered directly to customer doors and available at grocers. Since launching, AllIDoIsCook has built out a manufacturing facility, shipped over 8,000 boxes and generated $1.1 million in revenue all without outside funding.
  • Chasing Watts makes it easy for cyclists to coordinate or find rides with fellow riders in their area with its web-based and native application. The company has over 3,000 users and grew 135 percent from Q2 to Q3 in new ride views.
  • DanceKard, founded by Erica Sinner, is a new dating platform that connects individuals and groups with one another by bringing the date to the forefront of the conversation and making scheduling faster and easier with special promotions featuring local establishments. Since launching in August of 2021, DanceKard has over 170 users on the platform.
  • Dollarito is a digital lending platform that helps the low-income Hispanic population with no credit history or low FICO score access fair credit. Founded by Carmen Roman, Dollarito applies AI into banking, transactional and behavioral data to evaluate the repayment capability more accurately than using FICO scores. The company has1,000 users on their waitlist and plans to beta test with 100 or more customers in early 2022.
  • SeekerPitch, founded by Samantha Hepler, operates with the idea that jobseekers' past job titles and resumes are not always indicative of their true capabilities. Launched last month, SeekerPitch empowers companies to see who jobseekers are as people, and get to know them through comprehensive profiles and virtual speed interviews, and the company already has 215 jobseekers and 20 companies on the platform, with one pilot at University of Houston and three more in the pipeline.

The companies kicked off their cohort in person on October 18, and the program concludes on December 14 with the gBETA Houston Fall 2021 Pitch Night. At this event, each company will present their five-minute pitch to an audience of mentors, investors, and community members.

"The five founding teams selected for our gBETA Houston Fall 2021 cohort are tackling unique problems they have each experienced personally, from finding access to cultural foods, fitness communities and authentic dating experiences to challenges with non-inclusive financing and hiring practices," says Kate Evinger, director of gBETA Houston, in the release. "The grit and passion these individuals bring to their roles as founders will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact in the Houston community and beyond."

The accelerator has supported 15 Houston startups since it launched in Houston in early 2020. The program, which is free and hosted out of the Downtown Launchpad, is under the umbrella of Madison, Wisconsin-based international accelerator, gener8tor.

"Downtown Launchpad is an innovation hub like no other, and I am so proud of what it is already and what it will become," says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston Inc., in the release. "The five startups selected for the gBETA Houston Fall 2021 cohort are exploring new challenges that can become high-impact Houston businesses."

gBETA announced its plan to launch in Houston in September 2019. The program's inaugural cohort premiered in May and conducted the first program this summer completely virtually. The second cohort took place last fall, and the third ran earlier this year.

"These founders are building their companies and benefiting from the resources Downtown Launchpad provides," Pieroni continues, "and the proof is in the data – companies in these programs are creating jobs, growing their revenues and exponentially increasing their funding, which means these small starts up of today, working in Downtown Launchpad, are growing into the successful companies of tomorrow."

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